Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announces updates on COVID-19 at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, IA on March 25, 2020. (Photo Credit: Olivia Sun/The Des Moines Register)

DES MOINES, Iowa – Gov. Kim Reynolds encouraged Iowans to play their role in the state’s efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Reynolds acknowleged the first death in Iowa associated with the coronavirus reported by the Iowa Department of Public Health on Tuesday night, whom they identified as an older Iowan, aged 61-80, who resided in Dubuque County. Wednesday morning, IDPH reported 21 additional cases, bringing the total count in 145 positive cases in 31 counties throughout the state among those tested. As of Tuesday evening, 23 are hospitalized. There have been 2,578 negative tests to date, which includes testing reported by the State Hygienic Lab and other labs. 

“The mitigation efforts and policies that we’ve put in place are intentional, to protect Iowans most at risk. And those are older adults above the age of 60, and those with underlying health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes. Eight out of the ten deaths reported in the United States have been in adults 65 years and older,” she said during a press conference at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston on Wednesday afternoon.

“As the virus continues to spread, it’s even more important that those most vulnerable take extra precautions to reduce their risk of being exposed and, of course, getting sick. If you’re a family member, a friend, or a caregiver for someone at higher risk for COVID-19, there are important steps that you can take to protect their health. Know the medications they’re taking and see if you can help them have enough on hand. Monitor any medical supplies they need and create a backup plan. Stay in regular contact so you know how you can help or if their health changes,” Reynolds urged. 

“Now is a critical time when each of us can make a difference on the impact that COVID-19 will have an Iowa. We all have a role and responsibility to mitigate the spread of the virus and protect the health of our fellow Iowans,” she added.

She said her administration is assessing the state’s mitigation efforts daily to decide whether or not to extend those efforts or loosen the restrictions in her public health emergency declaration. Reynolds said they make those decisions based on metrics provided by IDPH. 

Those metrics are:

  • The percentage of the population who are 65 or older
  • The percentage of reported cases requiring hospitalization
  • The rate of infection among Iowans in the past 14 days
  • The number of outbreaks in settings like long-term facilities where the elderly and those with underlying health conditions live.

Reynolds also argued that many mitigation efforts the state has introduced are equivalent to steps that some states, who have implemented shelter-in-place orders, have taken.

“The significant steps we’ve taken will help mitigate the spread of the virus, protect the most vulnerable Iowans, and reduce our risk of overwhelming our healthcare system. It’s important also that we keep Iowa open for business in a responsible way that protects the health of our people and our economy,” she stated.

Reynolds also announced that the Iowa Department of Emergency Management and Iowa National Guard started to receive and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) to counties across the state.

The State Hygienic Lab can currently have 1270 tests available. There are commercial tests that Iowans can take. Reynolds also noted that hospitals in the state are beginning to conduct tests for COVID-19 as well.

There are updates on efforts to address the economic impact of COVID-19 on the state as well. 

To address the unprecedented numbers of calls that Iowa Workforce Develop receives regarding unemployment benefits, they now have 250 employees answering calls for Iowans so their claims will be processed faster.

Also, the Iowa Economic Development Authority launched the COVID-19 Small Business Solo Operator Fund for self-employed Iowans who do not have employees who can receive grants ranging from $5,000 to $10,000. 

Listen below (audio provided by Natalie Krebs/Iowa Public Radio)

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